Archive for the ‘English - general issues’ Category

Learning English with creativity

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020
Third is about writing a story. A writing task could help students with their creativity and imagination.  - NSTP File picThird is about writing a story. A writing task could help students with their creativity and imagination. – NSTP File pic

LETTERS: The academic year of 2020 has been quite uncertain. With the unpredictable daily reports of Covid-19, some schools are temporarily closed again.

In those that are functioning, some students find it hard to maintain their motivation to attend classes in the new norm especially when it comes to learning certain subjects that are not their “cup of tea”, like English.

Some students perceive learning English as surreal, stressful and scary. Little do they realise that being fearless in learning English does not mean having to speak and write flawless English all the time. Mistakes are normal for non-native speakers.

As an English teacher, the fact that learning is a process of discovery that opens students’ minds and hearts inspires me to design my lessons based on three criteria — originality, creativity and sincerity.

These three aspects will encourage students to enjoy the learning process wholeheartedly as they immerse in the English lessons.

I wish to share three suggestions of teaching writing.

First, the “Weekly Love Letters” project. This writing project focuses on students’ gratitude and optimism. For a memorable start, on the “launch day”, students received red apples — with red symbolising love and apples, good health — to lift their mood.

This style of teaching writing will make students appreciate life’s blessings by writing about somebody or something that has significantly contributed to their lives.

The best love letter with the most reflective content and meaningful illustration will win a prize. This effort seeks to improve students’ mental health as they are taught to look on the bright side.

Second, the monthly journal writing. This is another approach that aims to make students write regularly. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

In this way, students will make it a habit to write for pleasure as they express their thoughts and share their stories about life.

Reading journal entries is like reading students’ minds. This method is a heart-to-heart approach that proves the power of words in helping teachers gain information from students regarding the latter’s lifestyle, problems and interests.

Third is about writing a story. A writing task could help students with their creativity and imagination.

My students used to write stories based on the theme “Modern Folklore: An Untold Story” with the title “An Adventure To Remember”.

Their ability to create a new story that combined famous fictional characters from the old fairytales with the ones from books and movies on the present day took me by surprise.

The elements of happiness, sadness, comedy, adventure and suspense were mixed well for an emotional effect of storytelling.

In addition, plot twists and cliffhangers made the story interesting and outstanding. In a sense, writing and reading can be therapeutic.

Not only could students-cum-writers and teachers-cum-readers escape reality for a moment, but the experience would also improve the teacher-student relationship as teachers learn to understand their students better through the stories, journals and love letters.

by Muhamad Solahudin Ramli.

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Keeping creativity afloat during school closure

Thursday, June 4th, 2020
A student holding up one of the English language projects by English teacher Mohana Ram Murugiah.A student holding up one of the English language projects by English teacher Mohana Ram Murugiah.

Aiming to inject a little excitement into writing, English teacher Mohana Ram Murugiah from Methodist Girls School, Ipoh came out with a writing topic “10 Ways to Kill Your English Teacher” for his students to work on.

The activity is one of the five English language projects planned by Mohana to reach out to his students and improve their language skills despite the challenge of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and school closure.

“This activity was designed to pique their interest in writing and encourage critical thinking. The topic may be controversial but it is catchy enough to attract readers’ attention.

“They were supposed to tackle the topic in many different ways, not to literally ‘kill’ the English teacher. The students were excited upon hearing the topic and they couldn’t wait to start writing. At the same time, they were careful with their ideas as to not offend me as a teacher,” he said.

Realising that parents may face difficulties in helping their children with online learning, Mohana focused on delivering his lesson with project-based learning so that the students could explore and learn something new during this period.

Mohana Ram Murugiah. Mohana Ram Murugiah.

“I can just choose to give homework via the class Telegram group but, I personally feel that I would not be connected to the students by doing so. With the projects however, they constantly reached out to me to seek guidance and ask related questions.

“In one of the projects, they were required to create a scrapbook about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. The activity was a great follow up project to a unit in the Full Blast Form Four textbook. Later, students needed to present their scrapbook in weekly online lessons via Google Meet.

An article by a student on the topic “10 Ways to Kill Your English Teacher”.An article by a student on the topic “10 Ways to Kill Your English Teacher”.

“They were also tasked to come out with the Covid-19 awareness posters. Those who have limited access to technology devices could create the posters in a traditional way using their creativity.

“Other online activities were creating a brochure for an innovative product as well as a group video project titled “My Lockdown Memories”. These are the things to make learning enjoyable for the students while giving them a chance at learning new skills on top of honing their English skills,” he added.

On top of the projects, Mohana has been conducting free English online lessons with around 500 Form Five students every Thursday in two Google Meet sessions, throughout school closure. The participants of the sessions are from different parts of Perak as well as other states.

To help students who are unable to follow his live lessons, Mohana posted videos in his YouTube channel which mainly focuses on writing skill.

For his effort, Mohana was recently named the recipient for the Creative and Innovation Teaching award by the Perak State Education Department in an online Teacher’s Day celebration.

He was also awarded the 2019 Global Teacher Award in New Delhi, India and International Conference on English Language Teaching (ICELT) Top English Teacher Award in 2015.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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Touching the lives of thousands through English

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Gift of knowledge: Nadarajah (centre) together with Daniel Dickie, a volunteer from the University of Otago, New Zealand, presenting books to SMJK Ijok headmistress Chen Woon Kin as part of the Reading Bus project.

AT 19, becoming a teacher was never part of the plan.

But thanks to his father, Cheli Tamilselvam Nadarajah found himself in the noble profession of teaching, and ended up dedicating his life to it.

“I was really not interested in becoming a teacher but my dad being firm, insisted that I apply. Lo and behold, I was accepted to the Kota Bharu Teachers Training College to become an English Language teacher, ” he said.

But gaining entry into the college still wasn’t enough to change the mind of the former insurance salesman and he failed his second year.

“It was only at the end of my college days when I began to realise that this was a reality I had to accept. That was a turning point in my life and I started to love teaching.”

Now after 36 years of inspiring thousands of students to read and guiding them in their quest for knowledge, he retired as the senior assistant of co-curricular in SMK Menjalara, Kuala Lumpur on May 12.

Nadarajah was first posted in SK Lepong Balleh in Kapit, Sarawak in January 1984, and the experience left quite an impression on him.

The school was only accessible by long boat, and the narrow boats scared this tall educator who could not swim.

“I mispronounced so many of my Year Three pupils’ names and thought they were absent because they did not respond, ” he recalled with a chuckle.

These students only knew the Iban language, something Nadarajah had to learn in order to teach them English.

Years later, when the government introduced the teaching of science and mathematics in English (PPSMI), Nadarajah noticed that rural students in Sabah and Sarawak were finding it difficult to cope with the subjects. The dropout rate was increasing yearly.

“So whenever my wife (Kong Lai Mei) and I were given easy-to-read books in English, we would take them to the villages in our four-wheel drive during the weekends, ” he said, sharing how the ‘Reading Bus’ project came about in 2009.

“Anything larger than a car is a bus to these children, ” he said, explaining the project’s name.

Their first excursion was by invitation to the small village of Kampung Pasir Ulu, Sarawak, almost three hours away from Kuching by road.

The mobile library, which had become a regular activity for the couple, had attracted volunteers.

Word spread and, soon, they were getting requests from other village heads to come to their communities and read to their children.

Volunteers would bring English storybooks into the depths of rural Sarawak and read to the village children there.

To keep the students motivated, the ‘Reading Bus’ only distributed new books.

“We made it a point to only bring new reading materials and we graded the suitability according to the children’s reading levels.

“Having access is one thing, but more important is having the right books.

“The progressive reading strategies we used were instrumental in building confidence and restoring dignity in the children. This is vital for reading and growth.”

The ‘Reading Bus’ project followed Nadarajah to every state he was posted to.

He remembers seeing a father peeking through the window once in Bera, Pahang, watching his 9-year-old boy read.

“This man had tears streaming down his cheeks as he watched his son.

“He told me he didn’t know his son could read “so well”.”

Nadarajah’s students from the urban areas used to tag along for these trips and he started to notice a change in their behaviour.

“It was so inspiring to see how they began to appreciate life and learning more.”

His students, both past and present, say they are going to miss the “firm yet selfless, kind and fun Mr Cheli.”

“He is very dedicated to the school and us students. He has influenced me to spread kindness and he is a huge motivation in my life, ” said 17-year-old Chan Cheok Hwa from SMK Menjalara, Kuala Lumpur.

With the movement control order still in effect, Nadarajah does not know if there will be any form of ceremony, a custom for retiring teachers, held in his honour.

“I have no idea what the school has planned but I am okay with just being able to retire quietly. It is not about me but I will miss the school a lot.”

His days walking down the corridors in schools won’t end so soon though. He will be taking on a new role as a principal in a private school beginning July.

To him, each day always starts with a thought and a plan to make a difference – even if it’s to just one child.

“I want to be remembered for trying to make lives better.”


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English teachers co-teach online to ensure efficient e-learning

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020
Nur Afiqah Affandi (first row, second from left) and Jessica Thevamalar Rummy (first row, third from left) conducting a video conference with Form Five students on their well-being and preparedness to participate in e-learning.Nur Afiqah Affandi (first row, second from left) and Jessica Thevamalar Rummy (first row, third from left) conducting a video conference with Form Five students on their well-being and preparedness to participate in e-learning.

JOHOR BARU: Teachers are taking necessary actions to ensure that teaching and learning processes are still on-going during the Movement Control Order period by going online.

To come up with suitable and adequate teaching resources, Teach For Malaysia (TFM) alumna Jessica Thevamalar Rummy decided to partner with Nur Afiqah Affandi, an English teacher from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tun Fatimah Hashim (SMKTFH) in Johor Bahru.

Together, they set up a Google Classroom on “How to write effectively in English” for Form Three Assessment (PT3) and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) students.

Nur Afiqah said co-teaching can alleviate the burden of having to manage everything by herself.

“Co-teaching allows teachers to take turns to conduct and manage the classroom efficiently. Teachers can also create materials together and assess assignments,” she said, adding that she welcomes the idea of pairing up a senior teacher with a junior teacher.

“A senior teacher has vast teaching experience and subject knowledge, while the junior teacher is equipped with the current trends of technology. So, why not pair up to co-teach when using the online learning platform?”

Nur Afiqah said it is not that easy for some teachers to make the switch.

“Most of us are already comfortable teaching using the traditional chalk and talk method. Some senior teachers may have a tough time adapting if they’re not familiar with the technology.”

“The key is willingness to adapt and change accordingly. The teaching profession has been evolving for many years now and we have been prepped with 21st century teaching skills in which technology is a big part of them. E-learning requires commitment from both teachers and students,” added Nur Afiqah.

Before embarking on the online teaching and learning journey, Jessica and Nur Afiqah hosted a live video conference with ten upper form students from the school.

“The aim of the video conference was to have an overall view on the students’ mental and physical conditions during the MCO as well as their preparedness to participate in e-learning,” said Jessica who is currently working on an education research project.

“Getting to know your target audience is imperative before piloting any programmes. We need to identify their learning needs first and carry out necessary measures to minimise unruly external factors,” Jessica explained.

According to her, they first identified the students’ personal obstacles and thoughts, level of comfort in e-learning, technology skills and most importantly, expectations from the proposed e-learning activities.

Form Five student Tan Kher Xuan said: “I don’t have a suitable and quiet learning environment at home. Family members sometimes disturb my learning and there is this constant problem with the internet connection. If the video lags, then I will miss out a chunk of the information from the session.

“At times, there are sounds and voices coming from other students when they don’t mute their microphones. I’m also overwhelmed by the amount of assignments and meeting the deadlines.”

Mithiilesh Sivan focusing on an online lesson conducted using Google Classroom.

Mithiilesh Sivan focusing on an online lesson conducted using Google Classroom.

Fifteen-year old student Miithiilesh Sivan said: “I prefer to have a lesson with interesting animations in it. It does get a little boring after having long hours of online classes, therefore animations really help to lift up the study mood.”

Jessica said using e-learning can be an arduous process and a daunting task for teachers and students who do not have prerequisite skills to handle the situation.

“Making the switch is a positive approach. The key is to keep it simple and gradually progress. We need to work together to find effective approaches to e-learning. As dynamic as it sounds, it is important to examine the barriers involved in using technology for smarter and borderless Malaysian classrooms.”

By Murniati Karim.

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Enhancing English globally

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

Better language: The E4C team posing with the FPT High School students during the event.

NOTING the importance of the English language, especially in a highly technological era, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) conducted a programme for Vietnamese students recently.

UTP’s Information Technology and Information Systems undergraduates created a platform for Vietnam’s FPT High School students to communicate effectively and improve their English.

Called Engage for Changes (E4C), the programme was conducted through various English language activities with native and non-native English speakers.

“We want this initiative to help students express themselves more confidently and improve their English proficiency and communication skills, for academic and employment purposes.

“E4C aims to create awareness among the young, through fun and engaging activities, on the importance of English in technology, especially in facing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), ” said E4C project director Azizul Qusyairin Azman.

As IR 4.0 embodies digitalisation, Azizul said graduates are expected to have a strong command of the language to compete in the job market.

E4C is part of UTP students’ general studies subject.

In addition, the students held a forum on the advantages and disadvantages of technology, after which, FPT High School students did presentations on how technology can help them use English effectively.

The E4C is jointly organised by both institutions, based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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Write it right

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

THE Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) pullout is looking for Form Six and pre-university students to contribute essays to our Earn Your Band 6 column.

The topic below is the essay question for Writing Task 2:

Topic 3 (Deadline: Apr 5): The World Health Organisation has declared Covid-19 a global pandemic recently.

This calls for urgent measures to contain all types of communicable diseases. Discuss these measures using examples in not less than 350 words.

Essays should meet the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) writing criteria. Title your e-mail “Earn Your Band 6: Topic 3”, and send it to Provide your full name, age, school name, MyKad number, home address and cellphone number. Students whose essays are published for Writing Task 2 will be given certificates of recognition endorsed by Star Media Group Bhd.

Not just that, we will grade your submission using a three-star system. Get one star and take home RM50; hit two stars and walk away with RM75; clinch three stars and RM100 is yours! This applies only to Writing Task 2.

Earn Your Band 6 is aimed at improving the English proficiency of those taking the MUET. It features tips and strategies from MUET experts.

Published on Wednes-days, NiE is available only through school subscriptions of The Star. Subscribe through your school or call The Star’s Customer Care Unit at 1-300-88-7827.

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Meeting university requirements

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

In MUET, all the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing are tested.

It measures and reports candidates’ level of proficiency based upon an aggregated score range of zero to 300.

The scores correlate with a banding system ranging from Band 1 to Band 6, with Band 6 being the best achievement.

In 2015, a policy was implemented that stipulated the minimum band required for entry and graduation for specific courses, namely, Band 2 for entry and Band 3 to graduate for Arts and Social Sciences courses; Band 3 for entry and Band 4 for to graduate from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses; and Band 4 for entry and Band 5 to graduate from Law and Medicine courses.

Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) considers MUET scores or band an important indicator of a student’s ability to pursue academic programmes that are delivered in English.

Professor Dr Nor Aziah AliasProfessor Dr Nor Aziah Alias

While MUET is the key English language minimum entry requirement, UiTM director of academic development Professor Dr Nor Aziah Alias said UiTM has taken the initiative to align the institution’s English language requirements to other approved examinations or tests such as the English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL

“Thus students who have studied overseas or international students with appropriate grades or scores in such examinations or tests will have no problem fulfilling the entry requirement of their respective programmes,” she said.

This video at are among resources MUET candidates can view on the Internet.This video at are among resources MUET candidates can view on the Internet.

For graduation, Nor Aziah said UiTM does not use MUET as a requirement but instead uses a home-grown English Exit Test (EET) for students to assess their ability and readiness for workplace communication.

Norlida Abu Bakar, Language Proficiency Division head at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) Centre For The Advancement of Language Competence (CALC), said MUET bands (score) are among the criteria in the Special Programme Terms for each programme offered by the varsity.

Each programme has different MUET bands requirements with the lowest (Band 1) for entry into the Bachelor of Arts (Malay Language and Linguistics) programme.

A lot of practice will enable candidates to score in their MUET exam.A lot of practice will enable candidates to score in their MUET exam.

“To help students cope better with their studies, CALC offers courses under the English Learning Experience Package (ELEx) which is compulsory for all students according to the English proficiency levels in their MUET (for local students) and TOEFL or IELTS (for international students results. UPM does not require MUET as a graduation criteria.”

Apart from IELTS and TOEFL, MUET is one of the language prerequisites for enrolment into degree programmes at Taylor’s University.

Prema Ponnudurai, head of Department of Liberal Arts and Humanities, said generally, the lowest MUET score to gain acceptance into a programme at Taylor’s is Band 4.

“However, it differs from programme to programme,” she said, adding that some programmes require only IELTS or TOEFL results .

A Form Six student participating in public speaking, which can help overcome shyness or awkward situations during the MUET speaking test.A Form Six student participating in public speaking, which can help overcome shyness or awkward situations during the MUET speaking test.

To take MUET, matriculation and Form Six students usually register via their institutions while private or individual candidates can register for MUET online via the MEC website A PIN ID costing RM101 can be bought from Bank Simpanan Nasional for registration purposes.

Apart from the three exam sessions conducted at MUET centres over a period of two days, candidates who cannot wait to queue for MUET seats can also sit the test via MUET on Demand (MoD) which is conducted at one sitting.

Available since June 2018, MoD takes a new approach whereby candidates are given the choice of taking the exam using Computer Based Test or conventional test at a specified location with results ready within two weeks’ time as opposed to the standard 60 days for sessions-based MUET.

By Rozana Sani.

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Getting to grips with MUET

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Before applying for a place in university, it is important for prospective students to have the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) qualification.

Administered by the Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) three times a year, MUET is a test of English language proficiency, particularly for public tertiary institutions.

A prerequisite for those who wish to pursue their first degree, MUET results help determine the suitability of pre-university or diploma students for the programmes they are applying for.

MEC chief executive Mohd Fauzi Mohd Kassim said MUET helps institutions make better decisions about the readiness of prospective students for academic coursework, and about their ability to use and understand English in different contexts in higher education.

“MUET can also be used to measure the English proficiency of prospective employees in the workplace,” he said.

For university hopefuls, it is best to not underestimate the difficulty of some of the MUET exam papers. This is because there is quite a huge gap between the level of proficiency needed at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia level and the proficiency required at the MUET level.

Mohd Fauzi Mohd KassimMohd Fauzi Mohd Kassim

MUET was first made a requirement for admission into all public universities in 2001.

In 2014, the government announced that all prospective students of public universities and private colleges/universities must achieve a minimum MUET band requirement upon entering and graduating according to their chosen courses.

“The MUET syllabus was done by experts of the English language and academicians who know what language skills students should possess before entering a specific course. It has undergone changes in its syllabus twice since it was introduced,” said Mohd Fauzi, adding that expert studies have shown that MUET is on par with other international English proficiency tests.

In fact, the MUET syllabus and test specifications aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) will be used starting from Session 1 of MUET in 2021.

MUET can also be used to measure the English proficiency of prospective employees in the workplace.MUET can also be used to measure the English proficiency of prospective employees in the workplace.

“MUET results are valid for five years. Candidates can repeat the test as many times as they want, until they are satisfied with their results,” he added.

While MUET has been accepted for admissions into several universities in Singapore, there are efforts to take MUET into other countries like Indonesia.

“As our homegrown product, we want to empower MUET to a global scale, and at the same time make MUET the preferred English proficiency test for international students who intend to pursue their studies in Malaysia,” he said.

The key thing for candidates to digest about the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) is that it is different from secondary school-level English examination papers as it tests whether a candidate’s English language proficiency is adequate for university studies.

Mawarni MustafaMawarni Mustafa

Penang Matriculation College English language lecturer Mawarni Mustafa explains that the aim of MUET is to determine how well candidates can function in the language, at what level and for what purpose.

To do so, candidates will be tested on both the receptive and productive skills of the language — listening, reading, speaking and writing.

As such, she said, candidates should focus on improving all of their four skills of the language and understand the format of the four MUET papers.

“My advice to students as well as independent candidates is to get a hold of any current MUET textbook in the market and study the parts where they provide explanation on the question formats. That should give them ample knowledge on format. How well they perform in the test is mostly determined by how competent they are at using the language for listening, reading, speaking and writing,” she said.


Listening and reading are often the most challenging for students sitting for MUET, said SMK Sri Serdang MUET teacher Dr Potchelvi Govindasamy.

Independent students who do not have classroom coaching joining a MUET workshop to prepare for the exam.
Independent students who do not have classroom coaching joining a MUET workshop to prepare for the exam.

“For the listening paper, students need to listen attentively and try to locate the main ideas from their listening text in order to answer questions. For the reading paper, students need to be knowledgeable about many areas, including technology, social issues, environment, medical discoveries and agriculture.

“Basically, students need to keep abreast with what’s happening in this world,” she said.

Her colleague, Lau Suok Leng, noted that the writing paper could be difficult for students who are less proficient and lack general knowledge.

“The ungrammatical sentences aside, they would merely state the points in general without elaborating. The lack of clarity makes their essays less informative and not conclusive.

“All these are graded for their task fulfilment and language usage. In order to perform better in writing, students need to read extensively. The newspaper is the best avenue to improve their knowledge,” she said.

Mawarni highlighted one common mistake students make in the writing section is not understanding the requirements of the essay question well.

“When that happens, there is the tendency not to fulfil all the requirements of the question. There is the risk of going off-tangent when they write the essay. This can cost them dearly as the essay part carries a significant portion of the marks,” she said.

Suhana Abdul JamalSuhana Abdul Jamal

SMK Bedong MUET teacher Suhana Abdul Jamal said that to boost the students’ confidence in speaking, she holds singing competitions, poetry recital and sharing sessions during class.

“All these help as many of them are not willing to speak in English. After a few activities, they will warm up to the idea of speaking in public and this helps them to do well in the speaking section of the paper,” she said.

Suhana agrees that students would do well to read a lot if they want to score in Muet.

“Common mistakes include using the wrong tenses, spelling and word choices. Recently, I have had candidates who use the social media style of writing in their essays, for example, writing “u” instead of “you”.

“During the speaking test, candidates often fail to score because they do not stick to what was given and discuss other things. Many candidates also have a hard time trying to come up with the right words to use when presenting their views. Again, one’s proficiency level is crucial to perform well in MUET,” she said.


On top of paying attention in MUET classes for those in Form Six, Muizzudin Mazly, 21, believes the best way to prepare for MUET is practice.

Muizzudin MazlyMuizzudin Mazly

“For those who are about to take their MUET exams, go throught the past exam papers. Read as many English books as you can, either fiction or non-fiction, to increase your vocabulary. Practise speaking English with friends to boost your confidence in speaking or writing in English,” said the computer science student at Universiti Teknologi MARA, who obtained Band 4 for MUET.

Jagjeevan SinghJagjeevan Singh

Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) school-leaver Jagjeevan SIngh, 19, said MUET candidates need to step up their proficiency in speaking, writing, listening and reading skills.

“MUET sets a higher bar. For me, reading is the most challenging part of MUET. But it carries a higher percentage score. I overcome it by doing exercises and reading English language books,” said the MUET Band 4 university hopeful.

Jagjeevan shared there are many ways to score in MUET.

“In my opinion, to do well, you must first speak, write, listen and read regularly in English. A student must constantly practise all four components of the test for a better score,” he said.

Farah Maria Mohamed NapiFarah Maria Mohamed Napi

MUET Band 5 achiever Farah Maria Mohamed Napi, 19, said looking up listening exercises on the Internet to practise was among the initiatives she took considering she did not have formal MUET classes during her foundation studies at UiTM Dengkil campus.

“As for the other parts of MUET, I relied on the MUET exercise book. I did the exercises and referred to the answers for comparison,” said the Universiti Malaya Media Studies undergraduate.

Asked what she found “most challenging”, Farah Maria highlighted writing and speaking.

“I was not familiar with the essays we were supposed to write. Speaking scared me as I was afraid I would not have enough valid points. I just did more exercises for writing and speaking and timed myself to make sure I took the right amount of time for the actual test,” she said.

Amal SorkapliAmal Sorkapli

Amal Sorkapli, 20, an independent MUET candidate who scored Band 4, said watching “a lot of videos on how English-speaking people speak” helps tremendously.

“Test-wise, the reading section is be the most difficult — not in terms of how hard it was but how tricky it was. Most of the answer options were also painfully similar, so you had to read and understand them well. I think the most common mistake MUET candidates make during the exam is that they don’t read the texts thoroughly. The texts for MUET are not to be scanned but read properly and thoroughly,” said the Bachelor of Arts (English) student.

On tips, Amal said students must “practise, practise and prastice”.

“Practice goes a long way,” she added.

By Rozana Sani.

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SPM English Literature gets a makeover

Monday, March 2nd, 2020
THE Education Ministry has implemented the new SPM English Literature syllabus, which has been benchmarked to international standards, beginning January 2020.
It is hoped that through the introduction of the new English Literature syllabus, students will develop better proficiency and mastery of the English language, humanistic values, critical thinking ability, global perspective, and analytical skills in solving universal problems.

According to the ministry’s English Language Unit at the Curriculum Development Division, the introduction will also provide the opportunity for students to have more interaction hours in English, especially in terms of putting up performances and carrying out project-based activities.

Based on the new syllabus, students will sit for the SPM elective paper after 18 months of study with a new assessment format. There is also an increase in the variety of themes offered in set texts, in particular poetry, as well as a stronger emphasis on how literary devices create meaning and how students can better understand the literary texts and their contexts.

The revision of syllabus is based on the Cambridge IGCSE Literature (English) paper. This change in syllabus comes in the face of fluctuating interest in English literature from both parents and students.

According to English teacher Sim Poh Hoon of SMK St Francis Convent, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, parents are not keen to let their children learn English Literature because students have to choose between the subject and Principles of Accounting as their elective.

“The parents prefer their children to take Principles of Accounting as it is a more marketable subject. Moreover, English Literature is only offered to the first two classes in my school – students in other classes are not allowed to take the subject,” she said.

To make up for a lack of interest among parents, Sim takes it upon herself to encourage parents at parent-teacher meetings to allow their children to take the subject.

“I am also willing to teach English Literature outside of the timetable, as it will allow others to take the subject,” she added.

SMK Seri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, English teacher Sharini Nadarajah revealed that students have a hard time catching up to the demands of the subject.

“The students lack a comprehensive knowledge of the texts they read, which affects the quality of the arguments they make in their essays.”

Penang Free School English teacher Suriya Kumari highlighted the lack of reference books for English Literature and the need for students to improve their command of the English language, both of which contribute to the anxiety that students feel over their chances of doing well in the subject.

“I spend some time building up their confidence levels, telling them we don’t need reference books.

“To generate interest, we also need to market the subject more effectively by way of passionate teachers – what parents fail to understand is that literature is necessary in establishing proper human relationships, making one more humane.

“It includes so many soft skills that help students to perform better in the real world – how to deal with stress, self-esteem and people, which is something adolescents need,” she stressed.

According to the English Language Unit, the Education Ministry has conducted training sessions for 360 teachers since 2018, with more sessions to come.

The training is conducted to prepare teachers for the new English Literature syllabus, including familiarisation with the texts, pedagogy on teaching of literature, and marking literature papers.

The Education Ministry is also planning to carry out a nationwide survey on students’ interests in types of literary texts, to determine suitable texts in the future.

Wong Sook Wei is a student at the National University of Singapore and a participant of The Star’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme.

Advice to those resisting the use of English

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

The move to teach Science and Mathematics in English should be lauded and supported by all stakeholders.

As Malaysians who desire world-class knowledge, we cannot deny that technological advancements are built upon the “basic blocks” that are structured in English. The government should not be distracted by naysayers who cast doubts about the move.

Teething problems are inevitable whenever new policies are implemented. To throw in the towel even before attempting it is an inwardlooking way of looking at things. Fear should not be allowed to take control of any decision making process.

We can be nationalistic and patriotic even while we acknowledge the capable qualities of other civilisations.

We need to accept the fact that although all cars run on four wheels, there are some cars that are capable of going up steep slopes faster. The occupants of such cars will reach the summit earlier.

This is just an analogy to reflect upon by those who are resisting the use of English in the teaching of Mathematics and Science. We need to embrace a broader view to help our society reach the global platform faster.

The world is moving rapidly in acquiring artificial intelligence and digital technology.We need to fearlessly embrace the “building blocks” in which they are founded. These building blocks are undoubtedly Science and Mathematics.

We also need to think about creating global employment opportunities in this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The time is now. If the Wright brothers had waited for the right conditions by “treading carefully”, they wouldn’t have invented the first flying machines.

by Dr Z Measias John.

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